Category Archives: History and the history of Christianity

Podcast 8.24: Satanic Imagery and Conspiracies in Modern Culture

This final episode in the series looks at some ways in which Satan still finds a place within modern culture.  After discussing the importance of the film Nosferatu (1922), I discuss Satanic imagery within the country blues (1930s) and rock and roll.  Then I conclude with a discussion of two Satanic conspiracies of the 1980s, the Satanic ritual abuse scare and the notion of backmasking in rock and roll.

Podcast 8.24: Satanic Imagery and Conspiracies in Modern Culture (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.23: Goethe’s Ironic Mephistopheles (ca. 1800)

This episode looks at the modern, ironic portrayal of Mephistopheles in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust (ca. 1800), which suggests some future directions for a relatively harmless and even powerless Satan in the modern period.

Podcast 8.23: Goethe’s Ironic Mephistopheles (ca. 1800) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.22: Milton’s Traditional Satan in Paradise Lost (1600s)

This episode looks at the way in which John Milton (in Paradise Lost) pulled together many different elements into an early modern epic of a traditional Satan with some notable twists.

Podcast 8.22: Milton’s Traditional Satan in Paradise Lost (1600s) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.21: The Devil and Internal Struggles of the Reformation Period (1500s)

In this episode, I explore how Devilish images and stories were used to combat enemies during the Reformation period (1500s), finishing with a discussion of Menno Simons’ piece on identifying the Antichrist.

Podcast 8.21: The Devil and Internal Struggles of the Reformation Period (1500s) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.20: Witchcraft Accusations and Pacts with the Devil (1400-1600)

This episode looks at the place of Satan or the Devil in witchcraft accusations of the period 1400-1600, building on Robin Briggs’ theory expounded in Witches and Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft (London: Penguin Books, 1998).

Podcast 8.20: Witchcraft Accusations and Pacts with the Devil (1400-1600) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.19: Satan and Demons in Everyday Life in the Middle Ages

This episode considers some Medieval perspectives on Satan and demons, considering stories of everyday interactions between humans and demons and looking at the role of Satan within one particular movement, the Cathars.

Podcast 8.19: Satan and Demons in Everyday Life in the Middle Ages (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.18: Satan’s Home, part 5 – Medieval Depictions and Dante’s Inferno

This episode discusses some medieval images of Satan and Hell with a special focus on Dante’s Inferno.

Podcast 8.18: Satan’s Home, part 5 – Medieval Depictions and Dante’s Inferno (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.17: Satan’s Home, part 4 – Tortures in Hell and Christ’s Descent

This episode looks at images of torture in hell that are first seen in the Apocalypse of Peter before going on to the notion of Christ’s descent into hell to rescue prisoners in other writings, including the so-called Gospel of Nicodemus.

Podcast 8.17: Satan’s Home, part 4 – Tortures in Hell and Christ’s Descent (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.16: Satan’s Home, part 3 – Developments among Early Jesus Followers

This episode looks at how certain followers of Jesus, including the authors of Revelation and the gospels, expressed their notions of Hell and the afterlife.

Podcast 8.16: Satan’s Home, part 3 – Developments among Early Jesus Followers (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.15: Satan’s Home, part 2 – The Birth of Judean Hell in 1 Enoch

This episode situates the emergence of Hell and notions of an afterlife within Judean apocalypticism in light of the earliest reference to the punishment of fallen angels in 1 Enoch (ca. 225 BCE).

Podcast 8.15: Satan’s Home, part 2 – The Birth of Judean Hell in 1 Enoch (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.14: Satan’s Home, Part 1 – Cultural Origins Of Hell

This episode looks at cultural predecessors of Hell and the afterlife in the Ancient Near East, Israel and Persia, setting the stage for discussion of Judean and Christian developments in the following episodes.

Podcast 8.14: Satan’s Home, Part 1 – Cultural Origins Of Hell (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.13: Satan as Father of Lies and Heresy in the Church Fathers

This episode looks at how the rhetoric of Satan and demons played a role in internal debates and the construction of “heresies” in the era of the so-called Church Fathers (2nd-4th centuries).

Podcast 8.13:  Satan as Father of Lies and Heresy in the Church Fathers (2nd-4th centuries CE) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.12: Satan’s Demons and the Greco-Roman Gods in the Church Fathers

In the first of two episodes dealing with the Church Fathers, here I look at how Justin Martyr and Origen contribute to the story of Satan and his demons in countering external opponents.

Podcast 8.12: Satan’s Demons and the Greco-Roman Gods in the Church Fathers (2nd-3rd centuries CE) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.11: The Jealous Creator and the Serpent of Wisdom in Gnosticism (2nd century CE)

Here I examine “On the Origin of the World” (one of the writings found at Nag Hammadi), which attributes to the creator God (Yaldabaoth) of the Hebrew Bible many of the negative attributes and motivations found in developing stories about Satan.  The result is a Satanic creator god and a wise serpent in the garden who brings knowledge (gnosis) and salvation.

Podcast 8.11: The Jealous Creator and the Serpent of Wisdom in Gnosticism (2nd century CE) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.10: Jealous Satan, the Image of God, and the Serpent in the Life of Adam and Eve

Here I discuss the expanded story of Adam and Eve that emerged around the turn of the common era as a way of explaining the motivations of Satan (primarily jealousy) in connection with both the creation of humans in the image of God and the serpent in the garden.

Podcast 8.10: Jealous Satan, the Image of God, and the Serpent in the Life of Adam and Eve (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.9: A Satanic Empire in John’s Apocalypse (ca. 80-100 CE)

Here I discuss Satan in John’s Apocalypse (Revelation), pointing out how this author pulls together many strands of the story of Satan and does so to demonize an external power: the Roman empire.

Podcast 8.9: A Satanic Empire in John’s Apocalypse (ca. 80-100 CE) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.8: Internal Functions of the Rhetoric of Satan in Paul and John (ca. 50-110 CE)

Here I introduce Paul’s apocalyptic worldview and go on to discuss the way in which some early Christian authors or leaders (e.g. Paul and the elder John) used the language or rhetoric of Satan or evil personified figures (e.g. Antichrist) to label and combat internal opponents within the Christian communities.

Podcast 8.8: Internal Functions of the Rhetoric of Satan in Paul and John (ca. 50-110 CE) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.7: The Devil and Beelzebub in Early Biographies of Jesus (70-100 CE)

Here I discuss how the authors of the synoptic gospels portray Jesus in conflict with demons and with the Devil.

Podcast 8.7: The Devil and Beelzebub in Early Biographies of Jesus (70-100 CE) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.6: Mastema in Jubilees and Beliar in the Dead Sea Scrolls (ca. 100 BCE)

Here I continue to trace the development of evil personified figures in Judean literature around the turn of the first century BCE, focussing on Mastema (Enmity personified) and Beliar or Belial (Worthless One).  I also discuss the Prince of Darkness in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Podcast 8.6: Mastema in Jubilees and Beliar in the Dead Sea Scrolls (ca. 100 BCE) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.5: Fallen Angels in 1 Enoch (ca. 225 BCE)

Here I discuss 1 Enoch’s expanded story of the fallen angels headed by Azazel and Semyaz (based on an interpretation of Genesis 6), which came to play a crucial role in the emerging story of Satan.

Podcast 8.5: Fallen Angels in 1 Enoch (ca. 225 BCE) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.4: Other Predecessors of Satan from the Hebrew Bible

Here I explore other building blocks of Satan’s story from Israelite culture by looking at arrogant foreign kings and angels or messengers of God in the Hebrew Bible.

Podcast 8.4: Other Predecessors of Satan from the Hebrew Bible (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.3: Predecessors of Satan from Persia (Zoroastrianism)

Here I discuss the battle between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu in Persian Zoroastrianism in relation to the role of Satan within Judean apocalypticism.

Podcast 8.3: Predecessors of Satan from Persia (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.2: Predecessors of Satan from Canaan and Israel

This episode continues to consider the centrality of the “combat myth” for the subsequent origins of Satan, considering Ugaritic (Canaanite) and Israelite examples of a god slaying a chaos monster, such as Leviathan.

Podcast 8.2: Predecessors of Satan from Canaan and Israel (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 8.1: A Cultural History of Satan – Predecessors from Mesopotamia

This series of the podcast investigates the origins, history and functions of personified evil from ancient Judean (Jewish) and Christian culture to modern, Western culture.  We begin with what you might call the pre-history of Satan by exploring the building blocks of what ultimately became the story of Satan within Judean and Christian circles.  The first among the predecessors of Satan are monsters (who are also gods) found within Mesopotamian mythology in the second and first millenia BCE.  The so-called “combat myth” is a fundamental building block of Satan’s story.

Podcast 8.1: A Cultural History of Satan – Predecessors from Mesopotamia (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Ballparking the historical Jesus – The importance of context

In my previous posts on the historical Jesus, I have stressed the difficulties modern historians face in reconstructing this first century peasant or in being precise about what exactly the peasant of Galilee did or said.  The limits of historical method and the scholarly choices that are involved every step of the way help to explain why solid scholars such as E.P. Sanders and John Dominic Crossan come up with quite different results in their attempts to say something about the historical Jesus.  (I hope to return to these guys in another post).

When it comes down to it, one could say that what we know with a relatively high level of probability using historical approaches are two specific things: that there is a very high likelihood that Jesus was executed by crucifixion under Pilate and that Jesus was probably baptized by John the immerser.  There are, of course, important corollaries to these two items that allow us to go further.  Yet, beyond such historically secure statements, it is difficult to be precise about sayings and actions of Jesus from an historical perspective.  Some things may be more securely probable or likely than others, but we are dealing with less secure items the rest of the way in the search for the historical Jesus. What one scholar considers to be a more likely case of an authentic saying or action of Jesus, another will consider probably a product of an early Christian author, and therefore inauthentic.  Modern historical methods are limited in what they can tell us about a specific person living two thousand years ago, and our ancient sources have interests other than historical reporting.

As the title to my post puts it, we are in some sense better off admitting that we can only (carefully) ballpark it when it comes to evaluating many aspects of the historical Jesus.   What I mean by “ballparking it” here is that we can gain a relatively good picture of some aspects of the social, economic, and cultural contexts in which the peasant Jesus was active, and we can know with some degree of likelihood about some of Jesus’ contemporaries in the context of Galilee and Judea.  We can construct a likely picture of the overall ballpark or range of possibilities within which to place the figure of Jesus — a first century Galilean ballpark set within the Roman empire.


View Larger Map
(The Galilean ballpark)

A typical student in a second year course or your average Jane-blog-reader may know very little about ancient history.  They may know even less about the Mediterranean world as a whole in that ancient period.  They may know even less about what was going on in Israel in the first century, and still less about what it was like in the region of Galilee or in some village like Nazareth.  Then there’s the question of whether one’s limited knowledge is focussed on what we moderns distinguish as geography, politics, economics, society, or culture.  The thing to teach here, I would suggest, is the ballpark (itself hard to recreate using historical methods) in which to plot out the various possibilities for a peasant like Jesus.  If we spend considerable time studying the world in which Jesus lived, through both literary and archeological evidence, and focus our attention on studying other near-contemporaries of Jesus who produced writings or who left behind artefacts, then we can get quite a bit closer to the ballpark in which Jesus played.

Non-Christian sources for the study of the historical Jesus: Josephus and Tacitus on the execution of Jesus

One of the frustrating things about studying ancient history is the very limited nature of our sources, both in terms of quantity (only bits and pieces have come down to us) and in terms of quality.  What I mean by quality is reliable and verifiable historical information (in a modern historian’s terms) regarding the figures and incidents literary sources describe.  What the ancients were interested in telling us is seldom what a modern historian wants to know.

This also holds for the study of the historical Jesus, an obscure peasant from Nazareth in Galilee.  Archeology is indispensable in providing insights into the cultural context of that peasant, but does little for solving details about what that figure said or did.   When it comes down to it, the ancient biographies known as the gospels (e.g. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) remain our principal source of evidence, along with other more recently discovered writings (e.g. The Gospel of Thomas).  Yet the authors of ancient biographies, or “lives” (bioi),  had very little interest in what a modern historian looks for in studying a figure of the past.  The ancient “lives” of Jesus were instead very interested in explaining what they thought the meaning of Jesus was for those who wished to follow him, and in promoting their own particular takes on that figure’s significance.

What would help in this situation would be some non-Christian sources regarding Jesus which could be carefully compared with these ancient, insider “lives” of Jesus in order to assist the historian in reconstructing with some level of probability a picture of the historical Jesus or of certain aspects of his life.  Such sources are few and far between, so it’s important to note the ones we have.

There are two main sources which I want to mention, one by a Judean author from a priestly family in Jerusalem (Josephus) who wrote in the last decades of the first century, and another by an upper class Roman imperial official (Tacitus) who wrote in the early second.  Neither author cared much about Jesus, but each happens to mention something about Jesus nonetheless.

SOURCE 1: Josephus wrote several works, the most important of which were the Judean War (written in the decade following the destruction of the temple in 70 CE) and Judean Antiquities (written in the 90s CE).  Josephus’ works (as well as some scholarly studies) are available online at the Project on Ancient Cultural Engagement (PACE) site.  Figures related in some way to Jesus incidentally get mentioned three times in Judean Antiquities, including John the Baptist (Ant. 18.116-119), James (Ant. 20.200-201), and Jesus himself, who gets mentioned in one of the most important and controversial passages in all of Josephus’ writings (Ant. 18.63-64).

This passage is controversial because virtually all scholars agree that the text as it now stands (see below, including the strike-throughs) does not make sense as something Josephus would write: namely, there are no other signs anywhere in Josephus that suggest that he believed Jesus was an anointed one sent by God (“messiah”).  Josephus is actually averse to any claims that average peasants or anyone other than a member of the elite was a messiah or king or worthy of some leadership position.

A very few scholars suggest that the whole passage was later inserted into a copy of Josephus which then got re-copied and ended up in copies that have survived into the modern period.  Many other scholars would suggest that the passage was originally in Josephus’ book, but that someone (a Christian scribe) tampered with the passage and tweaked it significantly to make it sound like Josephus thought Jesus was absolutely wonderful, as though Josephus were actually a follower of Jesus.  John P. Meier has done a good job of assessing the passage and in offering what seems a likely scenario of what was added in and what, therefore, should be struck-out in using the passage to study the historical Jesus :

At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one should call him a man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. He was the Messiah. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. For he appeared to them on the third day, living again, just as the divine prophets had spoken of these and countless other wondrous things about him. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out. (Ant. 18.63-64; translation by John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus [New York: Doubleday, 1991], vol. 1, p. 60; bold and strike-throughs mine).

This scenario is also supported by an Arabic version of this same passage in Josephus, which does not have the struck-through material and instead has similar material grouped at the end of the passage, suggesting that the Christian-sounding material is not original.

(Peter Paul Rubens, The Raising of the Cross (1620; Louvre)

SOURCE 2: Much more could of course be said about this passage in Josephus, but for now let’s move on to the second important non-Christian source pertaining to Jesus.  Tacitus was a member of the imperial elite and senator, active in Rome, whose official positions included Roman governor of the province of Asia at one point (in 112-113 CE).   In the early second century, Tacitus wrote a history of the Roman emperors of the first century, known as Annals (written in the early second century).  There he deals with Nero’s time as emperor (54-68 CE).  Tacitus, by the way, does not like Nero at all, but he’s safe since Nero died several decades earlier, and few of the imperial elite of Tacitus’ time looked back fondly on Nero.  Tacitus’ works are available online on the Project Gutenberg site.  There’s a short biography here.

Tacitus mentions that a fire engulfed a particular neighbourhood of the city of Rome, a neighbourhood that was slotted for heavy rebuilding by Nero.  So, rumours began to spread that Nero himself had his men set the fire to clear the area and speed up the renovations.  Nero’s response?  Find someone to blame and quickly.  He chose followers of Jesus since, he heard through some source, they were sometimes disliked and viewed as anti-social.  Here is the passage from Annals 15.38 and 44:

(15.38) A disaster followed, whether accidental or treacherously contrived by the emperor, is uncertain, as authors have given both accounts, worse, however, and more dreadful than any which have ever happened to this city by the violence of fire. . . (15.44) But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed (Tacitus, Annals, 15.38-44; trans. by A.J. Church and W.J. Brodribb, The Annals by Tacitus [London, New York: Macmillan, 1877]; public domain; bold mine).

SIGNIFICANCE FOR THE HISTORICAL JESUS: There are many historical issues that could be explored both in Josephus and in Tacitus.  (On Tacitus and persecution, see my earlier post on the atheistic Christians).  But what is the primary significance of these passages for study of the historical Jesus?  These sources coincide with a claim made in the gospels, the claim that Jesus was executed in Judea with the most severe form of punishment available for criminals, crucifixion, and that this took place in connection with the Roman imperial official Pontius Pilate.  So we have multiple sources, some non-Christian, that confirm this aspect of what happened to the peasant named Jesus.  Multiple attestation is always a key criterion in historical reconstructions (and in gospel studies, by the way).  This is the most reliable thing we know — using limited, modern historical methods — regarding that figure, Jesus.

I will soon return to a second key item that scores high on the scale of probability for modern historians: the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, which has other significant corollaries regarding the peasant Jesus.

UPDATE:  For those interested in reading further on some debates regarding the Josephus passage (the so called Testimonium Flavianum) on other blogs, see Stephen Carlson’s Testimonium Flavianum Series.

Satanic conspiracies of the 1970s and 1980s (Satan 12)

There was a general decline of Satan in the wake of the eighteenth century Enlightenment and modernism (a decline in him being perceived as a real and imminent danger, that is). Nonetheless, he still remained alive and well within certain types of Christianity, particularly within the more conservative forms which do account for a large percentage of modern Christianity. Certainly not all of these conservative Christians subscribed to conspiratorial theories regarding Satan’s dastardly plans to undermine God’s activity. Yet there were — from the 1970s-1990s — a number of somewhat widespread notions of Satan’s evil machinations that are best described as conspiracy theories, two of which I will touch on here.

On the one hand were the very frightening claims of “Satanic ritual abuse“. There was a variety of contextual factors that fed the development of this particular conspiracy theory including the following:

1) There were general fears within some Christian circles regarding the many New Religious Movements (NRMs) — “cults” from this perspective — which were perceived as deceiving and brainwashing their potential members into joining. One of the results was a somewhat organized anti-cult movement, including groups such as the International Cultic Studies Association (a newer organization that follows in the footsteps of earlier groups), that produced substantial amounts of literature. The Church of Satan, or the unintentional worship of Satan via other “cults” generally, could naturally be subsumed within this framework.

2) Added to this was the actual existence and public visibility of an actual Church of Satan (founded by Magus Anton Szandor LaVey in about 1966 but especially visible in the 1970s) , which claimed to be the continuation of the worldwide worship of Satan that had been going on since ancient times.

3) Within certain circles of Christian social workers or therapists who held the view that there was a Satanic conspiracy, certain methods developed (namely suggestive interrogation) which resulted in a high number of cases where children and adults reported or confessed to involvement in Satanic rituals, often as victims. In some cases, the results of such approaches regarding stories of Satanic abuse were published in popularizing books, including Lawrence Pazder’s Michelle Remembers of 1980.

In essence, this conspiracy theory entailed a worldwide, secretive network of Satan worshippers who were systematically exploiting both children and adults to engage in wild and demonic rituals. One of the handbooks for therapists, as cited by the historian David Frankfurter, explains that Satanic abuse usually involves:

“group cult ceremonies in which children engage in sexual acts with adults and other children; the sacrifice and mutilation of animals; threats related to magical or supernatural powers; ingestion of drugs, ‘magic potions,’ blood, and human excrement; and distortion of traditional belief systems” (Susan J. Kelley as cited by Frankfurter, “Ritual as Accusation and Atrocity: Satanic Ritual Abuse, Gnostic Libertinism, and Primal Murders,” History of Religions 40 [2001], p. 356).

Another such handbook for those who believed in the conspiracy states:

“Such abuse may include the actual or simulated killing or mutilation of an animal, the actual or simulated killing or mutilation of a person, forced ingestion of real or simulated human body fluids, excrement or flesh, [and] forced sexual activity” (Noblitt and Perskin as cited by Frankfurter, p. 357).

The fact that this was indeed a conspiracy theory arising out of certain peoples’ worldviews and not reality is now widely recognized. What is particularly interesting is the manner in which stereotypes of the dangerous “other” which have a very long history — including the trio of human sacrifice, cannibalism, and sexual perversion — play a key role in this incident as well. Back in Roman times, for instance, the early Christians were accused by outsiders of engaging in precisely these three activities, as were other marginalized or foreign groups in antiquity (on which see my earlier posts here and here). Similar dynamics of marginalization and demonization were also at work in the late medieval and early modern witch hunts.

A second main conspiracy theory, which is somewhat less frightening or disturbing, involves the accusations against certain rock n’ roll bands regarding their allegiances with the Prince of Darkness (Satan not Ozzy), via backmasking, or backward messaging. The idea was that if you play a record backwards (remember records?) you could potentially hear an alternate message that, it was believed, was placed there intentionally by the artists in order to serve their lord and master, Satan. Among the first to fall prey to this accusation was Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, which, when played backwards, it was imagined, revealed the following message:

BACKWARDS:
Here’s to my sweet Satan,
The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is fake/Satan.
He’ll give those with him 666.
There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.

FORWARDS:
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now,
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
(Page / Plant, “Stairway to Heaven,” Led Zeppelin IV, ©1971 SuperHype Music Inc.. Lyrics online here)

Many other bands were likewise accused of broadcasting the messages of Satan to the impressionable ears of our youth. The fact is that, if you want to find it, a word that sounds like “Satan” would appear in just about any music played backwards. But soon the idea of putting hidden, backward messages on albums was consciously taken on, particularly in the case of heavy metal bands of the 1980s, who seemed to think that Satan, with his number 666, was “cool”.

UPDATE (March 24): Now see the comments section and “Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion” blog, where there was an earlier post on the Satanic abuse scare focussing primarily on the issue of therapists or psychologists who created the scare, to some degree, particularly in connection with popularizing books on the topic (sadly, there is a Canadian connection). He also includes the cover of a book on Satan (and, yes, it is now available in a new edition with flashy cover to boot) from good ol’ Hal Lindsey of Late Great Planet Earth fame (a fundamentalist, apocalyptic, best-selling book showing the end was near in the 1970s):

Satan is Alive (old)Satan is Alive (new)

Is there another Satanic scare on the horizon?

Horace Jeffery Hodges and Milton’s Paradise Lost (Satan 10)

I had planned to wait until we got into the early modern period to refer to Horace Jeffery Hodges’ blog, the Gypsy Scholar, but several of his recent hellish posts have made it impossible to wait. At his site you will find a number of interesting articles regarding John Milton’s Paradise Lost, including one article that focusses on Satan specifically: Economy of Damnation: Satan’s Fall in Paradise Lost. Another more specialized article also considers Satan within the context of other matters: “Free-Will Theodicy, Middle-Knowledge Theology, Ramist Linguistics, and Satanic Psychology in Paradise Lost“.

He has also just now put up an entertaining post, with medieval illustration, on some “hits from hell”: Das Wetter ist hell!. In the hope of decreasing visitors to his site, previously he had posted a poem of his own entitled “Ozark Spring Storm” which features Mephisto (alias Satan). Other of his posts relating to Satan can be accessed here.

Think of the ironic, hellish punishment of sending more visitors, albeit few from here.